Expression of muscle genes in the mouse embryo.

M. Buckingham, D. Houzelstein, G. Lyons, M. Ontell, M. O. Ott, D. Sassoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Using isogene specific probes and in situ hybridization on sections, we have examined the expression of structural and regulatory genes in the mouse embryo during the formation of cardiac and skeletal muscle. The temporal and spatial information thus obtained about the onset of expression of muscle genes provides insight into the regulation of myogenesis in vivo. Actin and myosin sequences present in different compartments of the adult heart are initially all co-expressed in the cardiac tube (between 7-8 days). The process of spatial restriction to atrial or ventricular compartments of the heart takes place asynchronously later. In contrast, the onset of expression of actin and myosin genes in the first skeletal muscle, the myotome, which corresponds to the central compartment of the somite, as well as their subsequent down-regulation in different skeletal muscle masses, takes place very asynchronously. One might predict that factor(s) responsible for the transcriptional activation of these genes are present in sufficient quantity in the cardiac tube, whereas in skeletal muscle individual genes are responding to variable levels of factor(s). In fact the four myogenic regulatory sequences present in the mouse - MyoD1, myogenin, myf-5 and myf-6 - do show distinct patterns of expression during the development of skeletal muscle. None of these sequences have been detected in the heart. In the myotome there is no general correlation between the appearance of a particular myogenic sequence and the activation of a particular structural gene. A striking example of this is provided by the muscle isoform of creatine phosphokinase. We would propose that each muscle structural gene has a different threshold of activation, depending on the quantity and nature of the myogenic factor present. We have also examined the onset of expression of the X-linked dystrophin gene known to be expressed in adult heart and skeletal muscle. In the myotome dystrophin transcripts are first detected at the time when myosin heavy chains first accumulate and muscular contraction is initiated. In contrast in the cardiac tube dystrophin transcripts are not detected initially, at a time (from 8 days) when the heart contracts. This observation can be correlated with the pathology of the disease which points to a more essential role of dystrophin in skeletal muscle. No muscle structural gene examined is expressed in the somite prior to myotome formation. If the myogenic regulatory sequences are implicated in muscle cell determination then they should be expressed in the dermomyotome of the immature somite which gives rise to muscle precursor cells.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-217
Number of pages15
JournalSymposia of the Society for Experimental Biology
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes


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